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Buying & Selling a Home

High-Tech Tricks to Sell your Home

Online decorators fill empty rooms with virtual furniture.

Some people can look at an empty room -- or even just a picture of one online --and envision the possibilities. But most of us just see empty space, which often seems smaller -- and less interesting -- than a furnished, lived-in room. Now sellers have a new tool to woo the unimaginative majority.

Virtual staging is aimed at home buyers who start their search online and who may quickly lose interest in a slide show full of bare floors and walls. Sellers or their agents can send pictures of empty rooms -- a 2- or 3-megapixel camera is all you need -- to a virtual stager, who sends back images of the same rooms, tastefully furnished, for use online and in marketing materials.

Ethical stagers won’t alter the color of floors or walls, improve the view, change light fixtures or fix imperfections. Nor will they work from photos of furnished rooms because they don’t know what lurks under the existing rug or behind the real-life sofa. Still, it goes without saying that for buyers, there’s no substitute for an in-person tour.

Home sellers spend $1,800 on average to stage a home the traditional way, by hauling furniture into an empty house or decluttering, neutralizing and decorating an occupied one. By contrast, Virtually Staging Properties, in Atlanta, charges $225 for three virtually staged photos, $280 for four and $325 for five. Send a high-quality digital photo and for $50 you can get an 8-by-11-inch paper enlargement to mount on the wall so that visitors can see an empty room’s potential. Virtual Staging Solutions, in Cranford, N.J., recently offered three virtually staged photos for $197.